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After 2012 launch splash, Windows 8 faces enterprise skepticism

By Juan Carlos Perez
December 18, 2012 03:39 PM ET

"Many organizations across a wide variety of industries are taking advantage of Windows 8," he added.

At CB Engineers in San Francisco, IT Director Jack Mou plans to replace all company laptops -- about 15 -- with Windows 8 tablets and laptops next year, displacing also a number of iPads employees bring from home.

But although Mou considers Windows 8 superior to its predecessor, he concluded that on the desktop it doesn't offer enough improvements to warrant upgrading from Windows 7.

"For the desktop deployment, unless otherwise requiring touchscreen and [stylus] pen inputs, I don't find it necessary to upgrade if you are already on Windows 7," he said via e-mail.

Of course, Microsoft begs to differ. Part of its massive marketing effort for Windows 8 has focused on convincing enterprises to adopt the new OS.

Microsoft has trumpeted improvements in security, virtualization, backup/restore, performance and IT management. For example, Windows To Go lets users boot and run Windows 8 from USB devices like flash drives. The OS also offers simpler ways for end users to manage their Wi-Fi and cellular broadband connections.

At TechEd North America in June, Antoine Leblond, corporate VP of Windows Web Services, declared Windows 8 "enterprise-ready by design" and "a better Windows" than Windows 7.

Still, the lack of enthusiasm for Windows 8 on desktop PCs expressed by Mou and Newton is consistent with what IT analyst firms have heard from customers.

"Overall, most organizations will look at Windows 8 for specific users and scenarios, and not for broad deployments," said Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst.

For example, a company may choose Windows 8 for a new fleet of tablets, or to refresh their laptop fleet with new Windows 8 "hybrids" that have touchscreens as well as keyboards, trackpads and mice.

Forrester Research recently said that the interest level among IT decision makers for Windows 8 is about half of what it was for Windows 7 in the third quarters of 2012 and 2009, respectively. (Both products shipped in late October, three years apart.)

The Forrester findings are based on surveys of IT decision makers in Europe and North America, in which 24 percent of respondents polled in 2012 said they expected to migrate to Windows 8 at some point, while 49 percent had given a similar answer about Windows 7 in 2009.

"IT decision makers are expressing concern about the new UI, because they believe it's going to require new training and additional support to get people used to it," said David Johnson, a Forrester analyst.

TeleMate.Net's Newton concurs. "Any large-scale deployment of Windows 8 is going to have a negative impact on productivity in the business world, because people will be spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to do this, how to do that," he said.

In addition, the security, manageability and performance enhancements in Windows 8 are notable, but not enough to prompt enterprises to embark on a broad desktop upgrade right after moving from XP to Windows 7, Forrester's Johnson said.

Even in cases where an enterprise will consider Windows 8 specifically for a tablet rollout, IT managers need to consider certain issues with the new OS. For starters, it's a bigger, heavier OS than iOS and Android, so Windows 8 tablets will generally consume more resources, and thus may be bulkier, costlier and more battery hungry, he said.

"I'm not sure that's a tradeoff tablet buyers are willing to make," Johnson said.

Windows RT, the Windows 8 version designed for lighter, smaller ARM-based devices, isn't as enterprise friendly as the standard Windows 8 for x86 Intel and AMD machines.

For example, Windows RT can't run existing applications for Windows 7 and older Windows versions; it can only run new applications built for it and offered via the new Windows Store.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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